LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Christopher and Michael Malpartida have always had that twin-tuition.
"In soccer we know where we are almost always,” said Christopher with a smile.
In sports, that inexplicable connection can be a huge advantage.
“Like we switch without telling people, because like I know how he plays and he knows how I play,” explained Christopher. “It's so hard to tell us apart on the field! Like, they can't tell us apart on the field,” he added with a laugh.
The brothers started playing soccer when they were six, and then in high school, they became two-sport athletes.
“We picked up tennis freshman year of high school -- like we had never picked up a racket -- and we got really good at it very quickly and we decided to play in college as well,” Christopher said simply. “I think sports made us closer.”
The pair has become such a package deal, that when that decision came to play college athletics, even though Christopher was unsure, he knew he couldn’t drop the ball.
"If one of us didn't play, I felt like we both wouldn't have played,” he said. “I knew he wanted to play too, so I was like okay, I'll play.
"I always questioned whether to play college sports because I wanted to free myself of not having expectations.”
Christopher really wanted to be free from a secret he’d been holding inside for years: he constantly waged a personal battle of being a high-level athlete, and a gay man.
“I personally felt like if I played college sports I would delay the decision to come out, because it's as really masculine environment,” he explained. “It was kind of intimidating, and sometimes I heard slurs, gay slurs.”
Christopher admits his freshman year at Berea College was a challenge: in the classroom, in athletics, but mostly with learning to love himself. He credits the school’s accepting atmosphere in guiding him to find his truth.
And in the spring of his sophomore year, he was finally ready to tell Michael.
"It's been 22 years, we've been side by side. I had an idea,” Michael said with a wry smile. “I definitely admired him because to have that strength within yourself just to be yourself in front of everybody."
“But I was almost kind of jealous to be honest! Because I was like, ‘Oh, here's Chris living his best life.’ I wasn't ready to do it myself yet."
The twins were connected in ways that they hadn’t even been able to admit to each other. Just like his brother, Michael had a secret he’d been holding onto. He is bisexual.
"Like Chris says, it's a timing process for everyone and everybody has their own time,” Michael said.
And his time came the summer after their sophomore year.
The brothers said that when it came down to it, telling their teammates and friends wasn’t the hardest part: it was telling their Peruvian parents.
“The Latino culture, there is a large influence from religion,” Christopher explained. “And then the hyper-masculinity in Latino culture, always showing bravery, no kind of vulnerability. So like, always being a macho man.”
The twins admitted their biggest fear was that their parents would be disappointed in them. Instead, Judith and Javier did more than accept their sons sexuality. They shared their pride through tears.
"They are so brave!” said Judith. “It took them so many years and one thing I regret is not knowing before."
Both brothers returned to campus for their junior year with the weight of their secrets off their shoulders. They told their teams and knew it wouldn’t be 100 percent acceptance, but Christopher and Michael don’t see that as a loss. Instead, they see this as a chance to educate.
"It took me 21 years to come out, so I'm not expecting someone to be okay with it in one day,” said Michael. “So just be patient with the process. It’s always a process.”
"Take your time,” added Christopher. “It's your story to tell and just embrace yourself and love yourself."
The Malpartida twins hope that their story and journey helps others from different cultures be confident with their sexuality and who they are as people. Christopher shared his story from his perspective recently on the website OutSports.com. Read it here in his own words.